Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: What Role for the British?

balfourArthur Balfour

Le conflit Israélo-Palestinien qui oppose la Palestine à l’Etat d’Israël débute officiellement le 14 mai 1948 (date de la création de l’Etat d’Israël) et n’est pas encore réglé à ce jour. Ce conflit qui dure donc depuis plus de 60 ans maintenant est le prolongement du conflit qui opposait depuis la Déclaration Balfour de 1917, les communautés juive et arabe.


And Arthur Balfour was the British Foreign Affairs Minister. During the First World War, the Ottoman Empire was allied to the English and the French. The British promised an independent Arab kingdom but also the establishment of a national home for the Jews. In 1920, the League of Nations assigned a British mandate in Palestine, for this establishment. England couldn’t find a solution acceptable to both parties so, in 1946 it entrusted the dossier to the United Nations.

Much more recently in 2012, the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas filed an application for Palestine to be an observer member of the United Nations. The United States and Israel obviously said that they would vote against it. But the former British Foreign Office chief, William Hague said that England would abstain for this vote unless Palestine promised not to use the international jurisdictions (given with the membership) against Israel. “We are open to the idea of ​​voting for the resolution if we see that the Palestinians publicly provide guarantees,” said William Hague. He advocates, first of all a return to negotiations and to “de-escalate” the crisis. Since David Cameron’s last government reshuffle, there’s been a new Foreign Affairs Minister, Philip Hammond. But on the subject, Hammond is likely to keep in line with Hague’s Ministership.

When the United Nations recognised the Palestinian state, Israel responded by announcing they would build more housing in the West Bank, a hotspot in this conflict because it is a territory that Palestine covets. So, France and Britain threatened for the first time to call back their ambassadors in Israel to protest against this statement.


During the summer (July 19th), thousands of people in London marched in the street to support the Palestinians. It was organized by several associations like Stop the War, Palestinian Solidarity Campaign… Protesters carried banners with slogans like: “Free Palestine”, “Stop the Israeli attacks on Gaza”…

The British government (like the French one) aims at adopting a neutral position in the conflict, and advocates a return to peace (which is why, for example, they have threatened to break off diplomatic relations with Israel in 2012), even if London has supported Palestine. However, in Britain, as in France, diplomatic goals can clash with popular demonstrations…



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